Sep 29, 2015

Schoolhouse Review Crew: USAopoly

 USAopoly Review

Working for the Schoolhouse Review Crew is a commitment. It isn't all fun and games. But this review was both fun and games! USAopoly sent us, not one, but two games for us to play and review for you! We received Wonky: The Crazy Cubes Card Game and Tapple: Fast Word Fun for Everyone.

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USAopoly is a company that creates, produces, and sells a lot of different games. Many of which I had heard of before even though I hadn't heard of USAopoly! Many of these are "special editions" of popular games. My Whovian son was most interested in his favorite games offered in Dr. Who editions! I was thrilled to finally find something that we could put on his Christmas list because he is incredibly hard to buy for! But, anyway, back to the games we reviewed...

Tapple is, as the name suggests, a word game. It is easy to learn, simple to play and effortless to fall in love with. It comes with a Tapple wheel and a deck of cards. Two AA batteries are required but not provided. The wheel contains twenty letters of the alphabet on levers in a circle and a big, red, timer button in the middle. The six letters left off the wheel are the "hard" letters of the alphabet: Q, U, V, X, Y, and Z. The cards each have four different categories like: "fish" or  "monsters and mythical characters". Two categories are easy and two are more difficult, these are color-coded so it's easy to pick the one you want.

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To play, one person draws a card and chooses a category. We will go with "breakfast foods" as an example. They then start the timer, call out a breakfast food, push down the letter lever that food starts with, hit the timer again and then push the wheel over to the next player. So say they call out "cereal", they would hit the letter C. This makes it more difficult for the next player because they can only choose letters that haven't been pushed down.

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The timer buzzes after 10 seconds so if you haven't given an answer before that, you are out. The last player standing wins the round and gets to keep the category card. The game is over when one person has won three cards. If, however, the letters are all pushed down before someone has won, then you play "overtime" rules. The letters are released and each player now has to give two answers using two different letters.

Wonky is a very unique game. I haven't ever seen any quite like it before! It consists of nine cubes of three different colors and three different sizes: three purple, three blue and three green in large, medium and small. It also has a deck of 54 cards. Each player starts with seven cards. The rest of the cards are placed face-down on the table. The object of the game is to get rid of all your cards. The cards dictate the game. Some have blocks on them, telling you what to play. If only one size block is colored, then you have to play that size and color block. If they are all three colored then you can play any size block that color. If they are rainbowed, you can play any color you want. Other cards give you the chance to pass, reverse play, or make the next player draw a card. Some cards are combo cards, which means you play a block and also reverse, pass, or draw.

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You choose any card you want from your hand and lay it on the discard pile. Then you perform that action. If you play a block card, you build on the tower.

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This is where the tricky part comes in. The blocks are not smooth and even. So when you stack them, they wobble, they tilt, they slide. But if the tower falls on your turn, then you have to draw three more cards! Since you are trying to get rid them, this is a bummer!

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After you draw, you play another card and start a new tower. 

This game plays quickly and requires a lot of strategy. You want to build in such a way that the tower doesn't fall on your turn, but does fall on the next player!

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When we first got these games in the mail, I wasn't feeling well, but the kids didn't let that stop them! They pulled them out and figured out how to play right away. And they haven't stopped playing them since! They play them with friends and cousins as well, and both games have been quite a hit!

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Both games are rated 2 or more players, ages 8 and up. I think the age range is great. Abbie is eight and she plays well with only a few frustrations. But a couple of the kids have played Wonky all by themselves! :)

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Since the kids did most all the work on this review, I wanted to be sure to give you their opinion of these games.

About Tapple:

Kaytie: I like it because it's a word game and I like word games. It's definitely one of the better word games I've ever played. It's harder than most because you can only use each letter once until you use all of them. I like that there are a lot of different categories and that they are varied. As with most word games, it helps expand your vocabulary. I do wish we could choose different time settings for the timer so we could make it more or less difficult depending on who is playing.

Nate: It is an awesome game! I thought it was cool with all the different categories. My favorite category was "mythical monsters" of course. I would recommend it to people who like word games. 

Daniel: It was fun. It helped me with spelling some words. The only reason why I don't like it is because the noises of the timer and buzzer were a little annoying. I liked that the cards were color coded. 

Abbie: It's fun. It's great for learning the first letter of words. It's exciting to play because you have to think really fast in order to not be out. 

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About Wonky:

Kaytie: It's a very different game. It's unlike any game I've ever played before because it uses a combination of blocks and cards. Depending on how you play it, it can be a strategic game because some of my siblings set it up so that it is more likely to fall on other people's turns. It's better to play on the floor than on the table so the tower doesn't get accidentally shaken down. It's a very versatile game. It comes with a pouch that holds the cards and blocks so you can take it anywhere. 

Nate: It was cool! I liked how you could set it up so it would fall over on the next person. And the entire game you are trying to make it fall over on other people but not on you! I would recommend it to people who like strategizing  It is a great game and it is very fun. 

Daniel: I liked it because you could either play it competitively or you could play it normally and just stack blocks. I liked how they mixed the colors for the "place any color or any size blocks". 

Abbie: It's fun and crazy at the same time. It's scary sometimes because if it's wobbly and it's my turn, then it freaks me out! I don't want to draw three cards! 

As for me, I loved learning to play both of these games. Tapple is my favorite because I love fast-paced games and I love word games but I don't often find a single game that involves both. I like that both have handy carrying cases: Tapple has a compartment on the bottom for storing the category cards and Wonky has a cute little purple bag that holds the blocks and the cards for easy toting around. 

My only complaint about either of these games involves the letter levers on Tapple. They are reset all at once by pushing one of the yellow tabs on the top of the wheel. Unfortunately, my kids are can be very excitable. They often accidentally hit the wrong lever or hit two at a time. This makes it difficult because then we have to remember that that letter is still "in play". I wish there was a way to reset one letter at a time. But this is a minor issue. We love these games and plan to play them for years to come!

 USAopoly Review

Crew Disclaimer

Sep 27, 2015

In honor of my nephew's wedding

We have something old...

something new...

something borrowed...

and something blue...

Sep 23, 2015

Schoolhouse Review Crew: YWAM Publishing

YWAM Publishing Review
We love getting to review different products for the Schoolhouse Review Crew, but our favorite reviews are books. Simply because, well, we love to read. So we were excited to see our name on the list for YWAM Publishing. They have a lot of books and we were given a lot of choices, so Kaytie and Nate helped me decide on Hudson Taylor Deep in the Heart of China from the Christian Heroes Then and Now series. We received a copy of the book and the accompanying Unit Study Curriculum Guide .

We have read books from these series before, so as soon as the book arrived in the mail, the kids eagerly began to read. For my eager readers, it was a quick and easy read. It took them about a day, each, to complete the book. When I finally got it back from them, I read it myself, a little more slowly... a few chapters at a time. And as I read, we worked our way through the Study Guide.

This book is a basic children's biography, telling the story of Hudson Taylor's life and ministry. We learned about his heart for China, his marriage to Maria, his struggle with recruiting missionaries to join him in the field. I had heard of Hudson Taylor before, of course, but this book filled in a lot details I did not know. His obedience to God and his trust in God (which was never disappointed), were major themes in his life. My favorite part of the book was when he was very sick and the doctor informed him he was going to die. Hudson insisted that he couldn't die because God had called him to China and he hadn't gotten there yet. Now that's faith! :)

The Study Guide was also fun. It is divided into eight sections:

1. Key Bible Verses: four verses offered in two versions (KJV and NIV) that can be used for memorization, devotionals, or conversation starters with your child. Other uses are also suggested in this section.

2. Display Corner: a list of suggestions of items to collect relating to China or other topics in the book.

3. Chapter Questions: four discussion questions from each chapter... a vocabulary question, a factual question, a comprehension question, and an opinion or interpretation question.

4. Student Explorations: essay questions, creative writing assignments, hands-on projects, interviews or dramatic productions, crafts, Chinese art forms,

5. Community Links: tips for field trip preparation and ideas for places to go or people to talk to

6. Social Studies: geography information, vocabulary, and questions about both China and England as well as Hudson Taylor's journey from one to the other. There are maps and a China Fact Sheet for the children to fill out.

7. Related Themes to Explore: suggestions for topics for further study. Calligraphy, life in China or the present day church in China for example.

8. Culminating Event: ideas for concluding the study with "a bang".

The end of the Study Guide is an extensive list of books and resources like biographies, movies, and internet links.

As you can see, there is plenty of material in the Study Guide to enhance your child's experience with this book. Since my kids are older (12 and 11) and they aren't as excited about these types as things as they once were, we focused on answering the Chapter Questions (which we did orally), memorizing the Bible verses, and dabbling a bit in the geography part. Mostly because I love geography.

Since Kaytie feels called to be a missionary herself someday, I was particularly interested in her opinion of the book. She said, "I like it mostly because Hudson Taylor is one of my role models. It is descriptive. It goes into more detail than other books I've read, which I appreciated. I do have a little trouble with the timeline, because it jumped around a bit, but I did figure it out eventually. The most striking part of his story is when his mom eventually locked herself in her room and started praying for him and that day he became a Christian. "

To sum up, we love Hudson Taylor Deep in the Heart of China and all the other YWAM Publishing books we have read and we heartily recommend them!

YWAM Publishing Review

Crew Disclaimer

Sep 19, 2015


Nate is taking a photography class at our co-op as well as working his way through some lessons at home. He has fallen in love with my camera and takes tons of pictures every day. I do not claim to have any sort of artistic "eye" but these are my favorites out of the hundreds that he has kept. The first one is a "self portrait" he took after he discovered the timer.

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Sep 17, 2015

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Super Teacher Worksheets

Our homeschool style is eclectic, but we lean heavily toward the Charlotte Mason method. So it might come as a surprise to you that our latest review is from Super Teacher Worksheets. Yes, worksheets. We were given an Individual Membership to the online site and have been using it for the past few weeks. 
Super Teacher Worksheets Review
I know that worksheets are supposed to be an abomination to homeschool moms like me, although I have been known to use them occasionally. But now I'm going to use them a lot! Because Super Teacher has over 10,000 different worksheets and they are pretty cool.
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The site is easy to navigate with a clickable list running (for miles) down the left side of the page. This is a list of categories and they are legion. There are worksheets for:
social studies
reading and writing
phonics and early literacy
puzzles and brain teasers
preK and kindergarten
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Each of these categories has subcategories for instance, under math is:
telling time
ordered pairs
counting money 
skip counting
and much, much more 
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And that's just math! There are subcategories for nouns, electricity, the 50 states, homophones, landforms, nutrition, owls, graduated cylinders, digraphs, and even Spanish and French. 
Then in each subcategory are dozens of the actual worksheets. These are in PDF form, so they are easy to open and print. They all have answer keys, but I liked that I could choose not to print those and save myself some ink! Because, yes, you will use a lot of ink with Super Teachers... there are just so many cool sheets to print!
For each worksheet, there is a brief description so I know what it is without having to open it. I can see a small preview of it. I can also choose to print it in Spanish or English. 
But that isn't all there is to this site. There is also a worksheet generator. I can take information that I want the kids to learn or review and input it to make my own:
math drill sheets
bingo games
word searches
word scrambles
cut and paste ABC order sheets
quizzes: fill in the blanks; multiple choice; matching; short answer
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When I generate these, I have the option to click "save" and it automatically stores them in a virtual "file cabinet" so I can access them again at any time. This means I can make them up ahead of time or reuse them later without any worry of having to keep up with them myself!
I can also choose to tuck any of the other, pre-made worksheets into my file cabinet so I don't have to hunt them if I don't want to. I can delete these files with a click of a button when I don't want to keep track of them any longer. 
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Yes, you say, but... worksheets! Boring! And I reply, these aren't just your typical fill-in-the-blank sheets. Yes, some of them are, but there are also cut-and-paste, games, scavenger hunts, foldables, graphs, cootie-catchers, mini books, maps, songs, and other creative ways to teach with printables! 
I found so many uses for these worksheets. My youngest child is struggling with area in her math lessons, so I printed her off a sheet to work on it. My older two just learned about plotting points so I gave them a mystery picture worksheet to practice their new knowledge. We are learning about Great Britain in geography, so I printed four copies of a fun sheet that had them match countries and capitals and drawing flags. We also classified animals, played around with nouns and prepositions, reviewed Spanish vocabulary words, and did a word search that I created using words from our current history study. In other words, I have used these worksheets to supplement just about everything we have been learning in the past few weeks.
I love Super Teacher Worksheets and I think you will, too. 
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Super Teacher Worksheets Review
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Sep 15, 2015

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Stinky Kid Math

As a family, math is not high on our list of enjoyable activities. However, I do have a couple of little boys that are actually pretty good at math. One of those boys also just happens to love anything that involves technology, so he was pretty interested in trying out our newest review: Stinky Kid Math

Stinky Kid Math Review

Stinky Kid Math is an online program that teaches the concepts of Pre-algebra, Algebra and Geometry. This is not intended to be a complete curriculum, although it can be used that way. Since we already have a math program that we love, we used Stinky Kid Math as a supplement. 
Stinky Kid employs the use of video teaching, worksheets, and games. The videos and games are online, but the worksheets need to be printed off for your child to use. 
There are two ways to use the lessons. One, you can choose a topic and either work your way through it or just watch whatever videos you need. Two, you can click "video lessons in order" and follow the sequence. 

Since Nate had no previous experience with Algebra, we chose to watch them in order and started with the first one. As you can see, this was easy for Nate to do on his own.

The videos are short, visually engaging, and easy to watch. Nate caught on to the concepts quickly, and followed the teacher's line of thought easily. We loved the fun backgrounds and the multicolored chalk on the chalkboard. The videos, I thought, were the best part of the program. 

Nate also enjoyed the videos, but, of course, the real fun was in playing the games. There are five different games in the program. They are linked to the videos that teach those concepts, but the kids can play them at any time. He didn't seem to have any trouble playing the games before watching the lessons, but it did seem to sneak in a lot of practice. 

This brings us to the worksheets. Honestly, we struggled with the worksheets. For some reason, he had a lot of problem figuring out which one he needed because if you click on the "worksheet" button next to the video, it doesn't actually take you to the sheet you need for that video. No, they all take you to the same Algebra Properties worksheet. This frustrated him to no end, so he either skipped the worksheet or I had to go hunt it down and print it for him.

There are answer keys for all the sheets, but this, too, was not always helpful, because it was just the answers and no explanation nor work shown, so if his answer was wrong, we couldn't always figure out why. I'm bad at math, so I need a little more hand-holding than that!

 I let Nate take control over the program, just reminding him to do it every day, and insisting that he continue to chose to watch the lessons in order. He is eleven and in sixth grade, not quite ready for Pre-algebra, so this was a great stretch for him material-wise. He didn't have any problem navigating the site except for printing the worksheets. He did seem to have a problem sticking to watching the lessons and not just hanging out, playing the games, though. I kind of wish there was a way to prevent that, but at least there is an Activity Log that lets me see exactly what he did and what he spent his time on. 

I liked Stinky Kid Math. I thought it was a great product for a supplement. It was fun and interesting and taught Nate math from a fresh, new perspective. I think it would be perfect for the kid who is stuck on a concept or the kid who is struggling and just not "getting" their math.

I would like to see the worksheets be a little more user-friendly and I would like a little more control over the games. 

Nate says he enjoyed Stinky Kid Math and would recommend it to kids who like math and maybe even those who don't. 

Stinky Kid Math Review
Crew Disclaimer


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